Dogs – Life’s Companions – Part 2 – Mili and Heidi

img_0496    It took a full year of mourning before Pat and I could consider another dog. Again we looked to the Watauga Humane Society shelter for an adoption. Pat made the heart connection to a small Pekingese-type female who had a distinctive under bite. As we processed the adoption, the shelter manager informed us that our new dog had been diagnosed with third-stage heartworms. Our adoption would require us to see the little princess through a risky two-stage treatment to kill the heartworms. We were warned that some dogs do not survive the treatment, which necessitated two extended periods of guarded non-activity. We accepted the responsibility and named our new family member Mili after a close veterinary doctor friend who had helped us care for Angel.

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Mili

Mili came through the heartworm treatment, and her personality emerged as a feisty little girl who was not easily affectionate. She nevertheless became Pat’s shadow as if she recognized the person who had chosen to save her. Mili regained her strength, energy, and endurance and became Pat’s companion on five-mile hikes from Bass Lake to the Moses Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Our long-haired friend was never a lap dog. She rather had an almost cat-like posture of independence. Mili soon settled into our household routine as Pat and I worked the literary life from our home office. None of us expected the arrival of a second dog.

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I was sitting on the bench rocker across from Angel’s shrine when a medium-size, tan, short hair female hound-like dog came down our street and shyly entered our front yard. I spoke a greeting to her, and she approached and then jumped up on the bench beside me. I reached out to pet her, and she put her head onto my lap. That was the scene that Pat witnessed when she pulled into our semi-circular front driveway. We both had questions concerning our collarless visitor who demonstrated a sweet, affectionate disposition. We fed and watered her, but we would not take her into the house for fear of Mili’s reaction. Then with night coming, I retrieved a large travel kennel from storage and fitted it with blankets to warm the dog against an early spring chill. The kennel was placed outside our front door on a covered porch.

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Heidi on a mountain hike

The next day, Pat began to search for the strayed dog’s owner. She did all the responsible things including posted and email notices, and “lost dog” newspaper ads, with no results. Pat then advised me that the dog’s teats indicated that she was pregnant or that she had recently had puppies. Her pregnancy was later confirmed when we took her for a vet examination. As the weeks passed, we were drifting into the “strayed and stayed” dog care category. When a freeze warning was issued for our area, we decided to bring the new dog, whom we had identified as a mountain feist breed, off the porch and into the house.

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Heidi and her litter of pups

The critical moment arrived as Mili confronted the new arrival. Mili may have smelled the vulnerability of the pregnant visitor whose size was not overwhelming and allowed the intrusion. Thus a new dog bed was provided for the stray that stayed, and she was named Heidi. Within a few weeks, Heidi birthed five puppies in our living room, with Mili in curious attendance. When the puppies were mature, they went for quick adoption at the Humane Society, but Heidi was too closely involved with us to go with them.

Mili and Heidi were frequent visitors to the Humane Society’s Arko Dog Park. Heidi was very social and ran free with the other dogs. Mili stayed close to Pat and could even dissuade a Great Dane who wanted to sniff her. Mili and Heidi were a pair of odd step-sisters.heidi-and-mili-2

The first time Heidi was taken on a hike, it was apparent that she had not been trained on a leash. She proved to be, however, a lovable companion who liked to be covered with a blanket when on the sofa or in her bed. No one could approach the house without Heidi sounding the alert. Mili would join the outcry, but Heidi got credit for being the major watchdog.

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Mili had been with us eleven years when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Our dearest friend, Tennessee veterinarian Mildred Bass, monitored the surgery progress and the subsequent holistic treatment, but our little feisty friend could not beat the cancer. Brave and remarkably active, she survived seven months longer than the surgeon’s most optimistic expectations. Pat’s constant care and Mili Bass’s recommended herbal medications, we feel, extended her life, and when she passed, it was mercifully only after a few hours of distress on her final day following her visit to the dog park. For weeks after, Heidi searched the house for Mili every time that Pat and I called her to go out.

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There is the possibility that we will outlive Heidi and that her loss will be another mournful event. Her cremated remains will be added to those of Angel and Mili on our property, and we will miss her. The emptiness of the house, however, will lead us back to the Humane Society shelter to find another dog companion. There are both responsibility and cost involved in living with a dog, but even as septuagenarians, we want to share our home with a four-legged friend.

 

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Dogs – Life’s Companions – Part 1 – Angel

Angel in the Driveway We never own our dogs. We only reside with them by ancient covenants that bond us. Life is defined by events that include both joy and pain. All human emotions apply in our close relationships with our dogs. It is thus appropriate that we honor these special friends as we would our beloved human family members with stories, photos, monuments, and sincere reflections of gratitude.

Pat and I have already had three canine companions in our married life, and they have been as dear to us as our own three daughters. A super intelligent Border collie came to us as an overnight guest after she had been spayed by the Watauga County (North Carolina) Humane Society. Pat, a member of the board at that time, and I were delivering blankets and needful supplies to the animal shelter when a member, who had just returned from the vet with a small black dog just out of surgery, approached us. She said that she did not want to return the still groggy female to the kennels and begged us to take her home for overnight care.Angel on sofa

We were then living in a rented condo that specified no pets, but we thought that we might get away with a one-night stay. We tried to bed the little dog down in a bathroom with a barrier at the door, but the dog jumped over it, and her incision site began to bleed. As a former Army veteran with medic training, I took the dog onto my lap to bandage her. She was so patient and trusting that we were amazed, and Pat remarked that she was an angel. That night we realized we were hooked, and that we must adopt her, so we arranged with our landlord to keep her at an added deposit fee. Her name was self-evident. She was Angel.

Angel and MontyAngel was seldom on a leash, and she went to work with us every day. At that time we had a retail store with an upstairs office, so Angel was both our home and office dog. Angel loved to leap into my lap as soon as I sat in my easy chair at home. She could be trusted to be let out to do her necessary business, never crossing the street or wandering off.

Angel was a wonderful hiking companion on the Blue Ridge Parkway trails. She kept us in sight and never got into trouble when presented with other dogs. In a high mountain meadow she delighted us as she raced in a zigzag pattern as if to raise quail or sheep from the high grass. For fourteen years she was our constant, ever faithful, ever loving companion. Her disposition was always playful and affectionate, and she was obviously the smartest dog we had ever known.

Angel gazing

The last months of Angel’s life, however, were challenging as she struggled with cancer. Her passing was mourned as that of a beloved family member. To memorialize her, we erected a wooden black silhouette of her wearing her collar and tags at the foot of a granite gravestone engraved with her name. The shrine site sits in a front-yard garden across from a two-person rocking chair bench. In this way, we daily honor and remember a wonderful friend who happened to be a Border collie.

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Pete Fountain, New Orleans Legend

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Pete Fountain was an American music legend when my wife Pat saw him weekly in the executive offices of the New Orleans Hilton. She had returned to her position as the administrative assistant to the Hilton general manager following her marriage to me, the co-author of the Insiders’ Guide to New Orleans. Pat’s friendship with Pete led to one of the most memorable nights in the history of my family.

Pat had been in the Hilton executive office for the initial construction of the hotel towers in 1977 and had returned for the extensive Riverside addition in 1983 that made the New Orleans hotel the then-largest hotel in the South. Pat was thus well known to Pete Fountain and his manager Benny Harrell, who had been associated with the hotel since its opening. Pete Fountain’s Jazz Club would remain a Hilton mainstay until it closed in 2003 due to Pete’s (age 73) declining health.

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New Orleans Hilton in the late 70s

In the fall of 1983, however, when my wife invited her new in-laws to the Pete Fountain show in the Hilton, Pete at age 53 was still in his performing prime. My mother and father remembered Pete from his performances on the Lawrence Welk ABC television show and other solo performance spots on the popular TV variety shows of the 1960s and 1970s. My sister Rita pictured Pete as a frequent guest (56 times) on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and from some of the 42 hit record albums.

Pat, a native New Orleanian, related to Pete as a fellow native who had attended her same high school. Pete, class of 1945, was in the Warren Easton Alumni Hall of Fame. Pat, class of 1965, had been the homecoming queen.

Pete, as a gifted clarinetist noted for his sweet fluid tone,left New Orleans for a featured IMG_5333spot with the hugely popular Lawrence Welk orchestra. His roots in jazz and Dixieland, however, did not suit the traditional Welk arrangements. When Pete “jazzed up” the Christmas carol “Silver Bells” on the 1958 live-TV Christmas show, despite Welk’s instructions, Pete was not renewed for the 1959 season.

 

 

Back in New Orleans, Pete played with the Dukes of Dixieland and then led bands under his own name. By spring of 1960, he had his own jazz club on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, and every movie and television star who came to New Orleans made a stop at Pete’s club. Al Hirt, the famed New Orleans trumpeter, had his jazz club down the same street from 1962 to 1983, so the public liked to imagine a rivalry between Pete and Al. They, however, were the best of friends, performed in each other’s club, and made many record albums together. If you saw one perform, you had to see the other to make your New Orleans jazz experience complete.

As a favor to Pat, Benny Harrell, Pete’s manager and son-in-law, booked our party of five at a ringside table for Pete’s late show. He understood that the visit was Pat’s first encounter with my parents and sister, so he wanted to help her impress them. The stage in the club is small and intimate within the arc of the café tables. Benny personally escorted our family to the table and our drink orders were immediately taken. People observing the VIP treatment must have wondered who these people were. That stage-front table was where you might expect to see Sinatra, or Dean Martin, or Tony Bennett and guests.

With an unexpected close-up view of Pete and his great fellow musicians, the show was magical. From classic jazz and Dixieland, to spirituals and show tunes, the pace of the performance had layers of musical satisfaction. Pete’s introductions and comments made our party feel like we were visiting in his living room and that the musical selections were spontaneous. The audience must have felt it, too, because they demanded three encores. The selections included our favorite Pete Fountain ballad, “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?”

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As soon as the show ended, Benny was at the table with gift albums for all five members of our party. Then he shocked us by asking us to stay seated until the band cleaned up from the sweat of performance.

“Pete has invited you to visit with the band in their dressing room. He will sign your albums there.” He also told us that he had taken care of the check.

 

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The dressing room was surprisingly large with the look of a luxury hotel suite. Pete could not have been more cordial and generous. He hugged the women, shook hands with the men, and praised Pat for her friendship and professional support. The musicians also interacted with the family and did not seem in a hurry to leave. Pete’s gift was perfectly orchestrated, and our family left with autographed record albums and treasured event memories that would last a lifetime.

Pat resigned her position at the Hilton in 1985 to follow me to North Carolina where I would write novels, biographies, and screenplays. That June, the Hilton gave Pat a classy going-away party with a gourmet cuisine buffet and many gifts. Two gifts from the hotel were framed posters featuring Pete Fountain. One, “Cookin with Jazz” (22 x 24) showed Pete with the great chef Paul Prudhomme.

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Another framed poster (24 x 35) titled “Pete Fountain’s Playing It to the New Orleans Hilton” was an artistic rendering of Pete against the hotel background.

 

 

 

Pete’s personal gift was a 6 x 8 charcoal portrait that he signed, “To Pat and Monty, Much Love, Pete.”IMG_5343

 

In 1992, the City of New Orleans governmental council conferred the title of Honorary Citizen upon us. The framed certificate and the mementos of Pete Fountain are attachments to New Orleans that will never fade.

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Our friend Pete Fountain died at the age of 86 on August 6, 2016. We immediately set out to create this blog as a tribute of thanks to him for his great musical talent and for his personal generosity to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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METRO Hampton Roads Magazine: The Editor’s View 1971-1978

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There were over sixty city magazines already being published in the United States when I sought the support of George A. Crump to start one in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. I met George in 1969 when I was producing a film for The Association of Colleges and Universities for International Intercultural Studies. George was on the board of advisors for the ACUIIS summer-abroad project at the University of Graz in Austria, and he and his wife Marj accompanied the students.

We had a great deal of social contact as I was also in Austria to direct the film, The Graz Experience. George owned WCMS, a reinvented country-music radio station that also staged the Hampton Roads touring events of country-music stars. But George was more than an entrepreneur; he was a visionary personality of many talents and interests.

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Monty in Graz, Austria at a party given by George and Marj Crump

My first publishing effort for George was to produce WCMS SCOPE Magazine in September, 1970, which was essentially a 16-page, slick-page bi-monthly that promoted the radio station’s interests, which included their October Johnny Cash concert and the rise of Irvine B. Hill, executive vice president and general manager of the station, who was later to become the mayor of Norfolk. By the second issue of SCOPE Magazine, we were being threatened with a lawsuit for violation of trademark. The new sports complex in Norfolk that hosted the American Basketball Association’s Virginia Squires, was named Scope.

 

 

 

Scope Topless IssueThe first issue of a real city magazine under my editorship was named Metropolitan Hampton Roads SCOPE Magazine. It met my journalistic goals within its 24 pages in its first three feature articles: “Nursing Homes: Human Junkyards” (an investigative report); “I Remember Mr. Faulkner” (a cultural insight); and “Thanks for the Mammary: The Topless Scene” (a declaration that we would be different from anything else in the journalism marketplace). The magazine departments included a detailed listing of area-wide events, a restaurant review, a sports story about fishing with an infamous Norfolk traffic court judge, a women’s column article titled “The Liberation Thing,” and profiles on newsmakers that would, by the second issue, include black businessmen.

The second issue of METRO dated April-May 1971 established that our magazine would explore sensitive social issues and not shy away from the controversial ones. “Rape in Hampton Roads: The Facts and The Fantasy” and “The Refinery: To Have, or Have Not” were real pieces of open-minded journalism that would not have appeared in the politically dominated Norfolk newspapers of that day. The newspapers on the other side of Hampton Roads had a policy of not even showing black faces within their pages. METRO was out to challenge those parochial attitudes.Scope Refinery

From the very first conceptual day, we saw the six cities of Hampton Roads as a single economic and cultural marketplace. Divided as they were, the cities had little to offer national media buyers and site-seeking business and industrial developers, but taken as a whole, they comprised one of the 30th largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). METRO Magazine championed that realization with editorials, Virginia’s first monthly business column, and its first restaurant review columns. We became the first print media that journalistically covered both sides of the Hampton Roads harbor. We were also the first in Virginia to pursue investigative journalism and publish stories that changed both laws and social behaviors.

METRO Magazine was designed, laid out, and edited on my dining room table when we were a bi-monthly. I shared my work area with a wife and two children under the age of three. I shamelessly wrote whatever was needed to fill magazine space; but as freelance writers, photographers, and artists gravitated to us, editing, managing, and advertising sales became my primary function.

George Crump was a very unusual executive manager. Although he probably invested over $200,000 in the first two start-up years of the magazine, all our business interaction was done in person at his home, at private clubs, or in good restaurants. George came to my office only once in all the years that I worked for him. The lunch-hour office was empty except for our receptionist who had been firmly instructed to bar anyone from entering our art department where the secrets of our next issue were laid out on drawing boards. George introduced himself, but did not offer his title as publisher, as he attempted to walk through to the art department. His way was then blocked by the dutiful receptionist, and George politely withdrew and went away. I was mortified when George called me later that day to describe (in good humor) what had happened. I quickly amended our employee orientation binder to open with an 8 by 10-inch head and shoulder portrait of George with the caption, “This is George Crump. He owns the magazine!”

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Publisher George Crump and Editor Monty Joynes discuss business at the Harbor Club in Downtown Norfolk.

By 1974, METRO had arrived at its fixed name and logo. The magazine had grown to a 100-plus page monthly with national advertising and inside color. The circulation was approaching 20,000 monthly copies. I left METRO in 1975 to become the Associate Publisher of Holiday, the national travel magazine published by the famed Curtis Publishing Company. Within two years, I was the CEO of two Curtis subdivisions and a public face of the Holiday Fine Dining Awards and the Holiday Awards Cookbook.

In 1977, I returned briefly to edit METRO before founding, co-authoring, and editing five titles in the Insiders’ Guide travel book series. I later sold the series rights, and by 1982, I had turned full time to the writing of novels and other literary works. By 2015, I had authored over 20 published books and published award-winning short stories and poetry in anthologies, journals, and magazines. I had also written seven screenplays and an oratorio libretto that was premiered in France in January 2015.

My remembered history of METRO Hampton Roads Magazine has its focus on the remarkable feature stories that were published during my editorship. Here are a few of my favorites.

Metro Judging the JudgesEd Bacon, a copy editor for Norfolk Newspapers, wrote two of the most daring and provocative METRO cover stories that we ever published. We began discussing the possibility of his taking a detailed look at the judges in Hampton Roads courts in November 1972. By July 1973, Ed was using all of his personal time to observe the judges in their courtrooms and to talk to the attorneys who practiced before them. It took Ed an entire year to complete the assignment and write the October 1974 issue cover story “Judging the Judges.” The judges were judged on a scale from one to ten, with a federal district judge alone at the low two-point level. Only a couple of the judges were awarded a ten. Attorneys who had talked to Ed dove for cover and denied ever knowing him. The public dialog about “Judging the Judges” led me to publish Ed’s follow-up article “Justice in our Courts” as the November cover feature. It was another blockbuster. I paid Ed the maximum that we allowed for cover features—$300 each. He deserved thousands.Metro Justice in our Courts

With the entire state talking about our explosive series on the judges, Ed found himself in an uncomfortable position at Norfolk Newspapers. I had hoped that Ed would be recognized as a journalist of genius and given assignments worthy of an ace reporter, but instead, the powerful newspaper corporation pressured their employee union to change their contracts so as to block their members from writing for a labeled competitive publication within the newspapers’ marketing area. How can a monthly magazine scoop a daily newspaper? But we did—too many times. The new union restrictions robbed me of a lot of talent that was wasted at Norfolk Newspapers.

 

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The Dooby Brothers’ band plane burns toward total destruction. Photos by Bill Cox.

That November 1974 issue is also remembered for the feature “The Airport Fire Fiasco.” On September 1st, what should have been a routine fire in a grounded aircraft turned into a near catastrophe at Norfolk Regional Airport. Our staff reporters exposed the cover-up that Norfolk Newspapers missed and showed dramatically why the airport needed an on-site professional fire department. As it happened, a paramedic stationed at the airport was trying out a new camera, and he photographed the firefight after regular Norfolk fire department trucks had been turned back as unnecessary.

 

The fire got dangerously out of control before the volunteer airport firemen, mainly composed of baggage handlers and ticket agents, yielded to the recalled professionals. The twin-engine Martin had 800 gallons of fuel in its wing and belly tanks. It was waiting for the Dooby Brothers band and crew to board the aircraft after a Norfolk concert appearance. The engulfed Martin might have set off the entire flight line of private aircraft if it had not been contained.

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The Norfolk Paramedical Rescue Service, then a private company, had an active qualified paramedic patron in George Crump. He and wife Marj, who was also trained, served the rescue service as volunteers. George was thus brought the incredible photos of the airport fire, and I had two investigative reporters on the case the next day. The outcome was that our investigative story made the case for a huge federal grant that established a professional fire department at the airport. The Port Authority chairman, who had once cursed me, then invited me to a thank-you lunch.

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We had an idea to document all the murders that occurred within a single year in the cities of Hampton Roads. It took writer Joyce Copes the better part of a year to meet with homicide detectives and put “MURDER, The Victims of ‘74” in chronological order for our February 1975 4th anniversary issue. The Joe Friday “just the facts” style of the article startled readers as the 120 murders were described. The cases and the gun violence issues are as relevant today as they were in 1974.

Kathy Harley, a bingo fanatic, brought us an incredible story about the often-illegal $5 million in Hampton Roads bingo play. Her knowledge and research figures were flawless. We estimated that there were at least 100 civilian games and 20 military games in operation without any local or state law oversight. Most bingo operations

Metro Bingoviolated federal tax laws. Included in the extensive seven-page October 1977 cover feature were boxes on how bingo operators cheat, how bingo players cheat, and how to start a bingo. The METRO article shook-up the bingo parlors across the entire state of Virginia and resulted in local and statewide legislation to control this formerly overlooked form of gambling.

METRO Hampton Roads Magazine was for me a license to explore my home region and to share those discoveries with a reader demographic that could act on the information so as to improve our social awareness and our developmental interaction. In an era of dramatic social change, I thought that we played an enlightening role in the potential of our community.

 

 

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Carl Sandburg and My First Poem

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Carl Sandburg portrait by William Smith, 1959

I had no idea who Carl Sandburg was when my distant and pretty cousin led the way on horseback from the stables along a mountain trail to Connemara, a goat dairy farm in Flat Rock, North Carolina. My father had brought our family to nearby Hendersonville to visit a favorite cousin who owned a restored antebellum restaurant and inn. We ate supreme southern cooking in the historic restaurant but stayed overnight in the cousin’s home. Their sophisticated daughter was put in charge of showing me the sights. We matched ages at fifteen.

Connemara home

Connemara

The horse trail emerged a distance from the goat pens and the dairy barn to the back of the owner’s residence. There was a low picket fence to keep out the goats. Mrs. Sandburg was a celebrated goat breeder, and she operated this premiere goat dairy farm from 1935 until her husband’s death in 1967.

Goats at Connemara

Goats at Connemara

My cousin halted her horse at the low fence and addressed an elderly man who was sitting in a high-backed chair on the long wooden porch. He had a stack of magazines at his feet, and he put down a copy of Look Magazine when she spoke to him. It was clear to me that he recognized her as a neighbor child, and I was introduced as a visiting cousin. Mr. Sandburg’s face was angular and his frame had the narrowness of hard labor. His shock of parted white hair seemed somehow biblical to me. Maybe the Old Testament Moses looked like him.

We were not offered to dismount, so the conversation was brief, and it ended when Mr. Sandburg said something like, “I guess you best be going,” and the Look Magazine was brought up to cover his face. In 1956, as young teenagers, we were not offended as we turned our horses and rode away.

Later in high school, I was taught about Carl Sandburg and read a few of his poems and excerpts from his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. He also won two additional Pulitzers for his poetry. Much later in my life, while doing post-graduate literary work in Sweden, I became aware that Mr. Sandburg was the son of Swedish immigrants to the United States.

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Carl Sandburg

When I met Carl Sandburg, I was saying that I intended to become a medical doctor, and that intention continued as I entered the University of Virginia. But my ambitions changed, and I became a writer of novels, biographies, and poems that include the libretto for a classical music oratorio.

At some mature reflective moment, I realized that I had composed my first poem on the day after meeting Carl Sandburg. I had no literary goals at age fifteen; and being unaware of Mr. Sandburg’s greatness, I could claim no porch-front benediction from him. Nevertheless, I wrote an honest expression of the heart with no anticipation of writing hundreds more.

Many years later, I brought my wife Pat to Flat Rock and took the National Park Service tour of the Sandburg home and grounds. In the attic of the house was Mr. Sandburg’s reading retreat, and there was a straight-back chair amid piles of Look and Life magazines. Outside the house, I took the opportunity to stand at the back porch and recite my first poem to Pat. It is still the only poem of mine that I can recite spontaneously from memory. So wherever you are, my sweet and endearing cousin, thank you for that horse ride into poetry.

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Carl Sandburg’s home

        AFTER AN ACQUAINTANCE

                          by Monty Joynes

 You meet and then you part.

 An empty feeling grips your heart.

You’re sure a friendship

Could have grown,

If time had ceased and

You had known

A love so true could

Make you cry.

But a bit of your heart

Did die

After an acquaintance.

 

 

 

 

 

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Treasure Hunting: Documenting the Continuing Odyssey of the World’s Most Famous Treasure Hunters

Love&Treasure Cover_07-1   Adventure seekers have a different genome than most of their fellow human beings. They are programmed “to go where no one has gone before,” as Gene Roddenberry recognized in his Star Trek explorers. Human history celebrates the great risk takers among us who demonstrate an irrepressible drive to explore and to discover the limits of our endurance and our imaginations. Each one is a determined treasure hunter although the goals may be as diverse as a scientific breakthrough, a new direction in classical music, art, or literature, or even the gymnastic miracle of a quadruple spinning jump. There are those among us who dare the impossible and achieve amazing results. For Love and Treasure documents the continuing odyssey of the world’s most famous treasure hunters.

The recovery of the $400 million Atocha treasure in 1985 made Mel Fisher and his family worldwide celebrities, but this was not the end of the quest. For 25 years Kim Fisher (President of Mel Fisher’s Treasures) and wife Lee Fisher (Vice President) have continued the search for the missing Atocha sterncastle, which is believed to contain a chest of Muzo emeralds worth hundreds of millions of dollars. With advanced technology of treasure hunting into the space age; and with additional undersea treasure targets, an underwater trail of emeralds, silver pieces-of-eight, gold bars, and important archaeological artifacts is still productive dive season after dive season off the Florida Keys.

Author Monty Joynes in Key West. Photo by Shawn Cowles.

Author Monty Joynes in Key West. Photo by Shawn Cowles.

Serious discussions about writing the Kim and Lee Fisher biography began early in 2014, and I began a month-long residency in the Fisher home where I shadowed them daily through their personal and business lives. In their corporate executive office, I sat at a desk across from their administrative director, dove into their company archives, and began to interact with and interview the key individuals of the company that included department heads, archaeologists, artifact conservators, boat captains, and the certified diver crews.

I attended the adjudication of treasure artifacts (found in 2013) by the Federal Court and then joined the festivities of Division Week when expedition members came to Key West to receive their share of the treasure itself. With this unique access, I was able to talk to scores of expedition members about their dive adventures and get to the heart of their motivations. Along the way, I made friendships with some of the most significant individuals in treasure hunting history, and there are individual chapters in the book that tell their exciting stories.

In all, For Love and Treasure took more than a year to research and write. The final month was devoted mostly to editing the nearly 100 photos that appear in the book from more than 1,000 that were found and evaluated. My intention in writing For Love and Treasure was to provide a historically authentic reference to the field of modern treasure hunting while honoring the Fisher family’s contributions to this still challenging and dangerous adventure.

These explorers are not like us. They possess an indomitable drive to search and discover. In essence, their quest is not for either wealth or fame. They rather pursue the thrill of discovery itself. For Love and Treasure is their story, and I trust that meeting these unique individuals on the page will provide a kind of treasure for you, too.

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Frank Sinatra and Don Budge: The 100th Anniversary

Frank Sinatra My Way cover with cigaretteTwo of the 20th century’s most accomplished performers were born in the same year—1915. Don Budge, a prodigiously talented tennis player, won back-to-back championships at both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in the tense pre-war years of 1937 and 1938. In 1938, he then became the first tennis player to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same year, a feat matched by only four players since. The tall, redheaded Budge pioneered the power game in tennis and became one of sports’ greatest figures. During Don Budge’s rise to celebrity status, a band singer named Frank Sinatra became a don-budge-autographhousehold name, with hit after record hit and sold-out performances at Paramount Theatre in New York City. Frank Sinatra did not invent pop vocal crooning—Bing Crosby did that—but Sinatra raised the male vocal to an art form. To hear Frank and Bing together at their best, view their duet “What a Swell Party This Is” from the 1956 film High Society.

Both Don Budge and Frank Sinatra loved the after-event party, and they made their connection through the great bandleader Tommy Dorsey. With Frank on the Dorsey bandstand at the New Yorker Hotel, Don arrived to party after winning a tournament at the sold-out Madison Square Garden. There is a story that Budge once came to the New Yorker’s Manhattan Room at midnight and that Tommy Dorsey turned the band over to him for the rest of the night. Since Budge had been an amateur drummer since age 12, it can be believed that he could lead the band. Dorsey and Frank In addition to the Dorsey brothers, Tommy and Jimmy, Budge had other bandleader friends like Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. He also partied with sports celebrities of his era like Sugar Ray Robinson at the famous Billy Goat Inn in Chicago. There is no need to document Frank Sinatra’s propensity for after-event private parties. And there is evidence that whenever Frank and Don Budge were in the same city, they got together. When Don played charity matches at the Palm Springs Racquet Club, where Frank, Bob Hope, and Kirk Douglas were long-time residents, they must have renewed their social friendship. In the Los Angeles area, the brother of my father-in-law managed a very popular nightclub where the stars came to party.

Frank Sinatra’s party clan was called the Rat Pack and included singers Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., actor Peter Lawford, and comedian Joey Bishop. The Rat Pack appeared together on the Las Vegas stage and in feature films in the early 1960s. Their major movies were Oceans 11, Sergeants 3, and Robin and the 7 Hoods. Associate members of the Rat Pack were the most beautiful women in Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson, Juliet Prowse, and Shirley MacLaine were welcome as were celebrity male pals from show business and sports.

rat-pack Dom Giallanza told his older brother Sal that he often closed his nightclub to the public for the sole purpose of hosting Frank Sinatra’s private Rat Pack parties. He especially enjoyed the fun of being around Sammy Davis, Jr., the celebrated singer, dancer, and actor whose color prevented him from being universally welcomed in a still segregated America. With Sinatra, Sammy was accepted as one of the leaders of the pack.

Don Budge Watch.for blogThe Giallanzas had homes in the French Quarter of New Orleans and were major vegetable merchants prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Sal, my father-in-law, then went to the docks of New Orleans as a stevedore, while his brother Dominick sought his fortune in California. Dom’s club must have been central to the Budge and Sinatra after-hours parties because in friendship, Don Budge gave Dominick Giallanza his pocket watch. The watch came to Sal about 1970 on the death of his brother and thus to me on Sal’s death in 2006.

The watch is a working gold Waltham 17 jewels, shock-resistant, antimagnetic, large numeral, two-inch diameter pocket watch, with a separate circle for the second hand, and attached 19 1/2-inch gold chain with 3/4-inch gold-letter linking charms that spell out the name “Don Budge.” What hours this watch must have recorded during the years of America’s greatest generation.

Although I never saw Don Budge on the court, I have seen some great tennis players. I once had

Arthur Ashe an all-access press pass to see my fellow Virginian Arthur Ashe in a semi-final at Wimbledon. He remains the only black man to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and the Australian Open. I also attended a U.S. Indoors tournament as a journalist and went into the locker room with players like Ilie Nastase and Stan Smith. I once saw the legendary Pancho Gonzales, who was the world’s top player for eight consecutive years (1952-1960) play doubles with partner Pancho Segura against Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase in an exhibition match to open the Chris Evert Tennis Academy in Florida. Don Budge toured with Gonzales in 1950-51, so they obviously had mutual respect.

I also saw Martina Navratilova play a match from a courtside box at a 1984 Virginia Slims tournament stop in New Orleans. Sports Illustrated has named Serena Williams as the number one women’s player of all time, but Martina, with 18 Grand Slams and 167 titles, still gets my vote. After all, I was once so close to her that I could have handed her a towel between sets. Virginia Slims The closest I ever got to Frank Sinatra was in July 1975. I had been included in the Savalas family party who gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate Telly’s opening night cabaret act at the Sahara Hotel and Casino. As a movie star and lead actor in the top-rated television detective show Kojak, Telly Savalas was one of the most popular celebrities in show business. When the wives in our party decided that they wanted to see Frank Sinatra’s show at Caesar’s Palace, even our high rollers with the pit boss connections could not get us a table. We had waited too long. It was Sinatra’s last night, and the show was sold out. Sinatra program One of the younger guys in our party group asked if he might try to get us into the Sinatra show. The older men (who had failed) raised eyebrows, but they did not discourage him. Being the day before the actual concert, what were his odds of getting all of us in? The men were dumbfounded when the miracle was announced. Our wives went wild! Caesar’s Palace must have moved a lot of tables closer together at the right center of the stage to accommodate our last-minute oval for ten. The quarters were tight, but who cared? We were ringside. When Frank moved across the stage and sang, he was often standing within ten feet above us. Frank was still in his vocal prime, and his performance was electrifying. How had our new friend gotten the table? He would not be specific. The fact that he was the son of Robert Strauss, then Chairman of the Democratic Party, might have been a clue.

Photography... gigs 035

For me, there will always be a link between Don Budge and Frank Sinatra. I have the pocket watch of the one and the timeless image and recordings of the other. My only regret is that I never got to hear the stories that Dominick Giallanza might have told me about Don and Frank.

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Prince Henrik of Denmark: A Royal Collaboration

The Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

The Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Classical music performance artists dream of recognition in the places where concerts are sponsored by royalty. Here is the story of how an American composer rose to acclaim in the châteaux of European royals in the dreamtime of a single year.

Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, as the husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, is titled His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort of Denmark. A native French Comte (Count) before his wife came to the Danish crown in January 1972, Henri, or in Danish, ‘Henrik’ is a published poet of some regard, having authored five books since 1982, and a prize-winner in several European literary academies. Prince Henrik writes in French and maintains a part-time residency at his château and winery in France. As it evolved, Prince Henrik and I have a great deal in common. We are both poets and collaborators to the same Franco-American composer Edmund Barton “Bart” Bullock.

Long before Bart and I began our partnership on the oratorio, The Awakening of Humanity, Bart has had a long-term interest in the composition and performance of art songs like those based on the poetry of Prince Henrik. In 1999, Bart began a collaboration with the Académie des Jeux Floraux de Toulouse (Academy of the Floral Games), the oldest literary society in the western world, founded in 1323. Bart composed an art song in 1999 based on a poem by Prince Henrik, “Descent on the river of the catafalque of Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse”, which opens his Cycle of Seven Arts Songs in honor of the Seven Troubadours and of Clémence Isaure, founders of the Jeux Floraux de Toulouse.

Edmund "Bart" Bullock in performance

Edmund “Bart” Bullock in performance

The art song was composed with permission, but Bart had no personal contact with the Prince. This work was premiered in the Clémence Isaure Hall in Toulouse in 2001, with a repeat performance that same year in a Carnegie Recital Hall concert in New York City. Then in August 2013, Bart’s friend and landlord Marquis Robert de Palaminy invited him to attend the annual charity concert sponsored by Prince Henrik and Queen Margrethe II. Bart decided to package the song cycle, published in the U. S., for Prince Henrik on the chance that he might be presented to him.

When the Honorary Consul of Denmark in Toulouse, an acquaintance who was also attending the concert, learned about Bart’s gift package, he offered to convey it to the Prince. The Prince, an excellent classical pianist himself, was able to read the score and was impressed enough to call Bart to him during the concert intermission. Thus began a conversation about music that led to Bart being invited to the Prince’s after-concert dinner party.

Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Queen Margrethe and Prince Consort Henrik of Denmark

Amid a roomful of close friends and family of the Prince and Queen Margrethe II, the Prince asked Bart if he would compose another art song from a poem that he had written about Toulouse. The composition of that song led the Prince to send Bart a book of his poems for the creation of an art song cycle that he would commission. The commission of the six new art songs included a performance contract to perform the music at the Prince and Queen’s 2014 benefit concert. The arc of that year between concerts must now seem as magical as a fairy tale for Bart.

The concert in the Château de Cayx in Luzech, France will be held on

Chateau de Cayz Luzech, France

Chateau de Cayz
Luzech, France

Thursday, August 21st at 6:30 p.m. As sponsored by Prince Henrik and Queen Margrethe II, Bart will perform his Three Tango Fantasies, a Cycle of Seven Troubadour Art Songs, a Cycle of Six French Art Songs based on Prince Henrik’s poems from the poetry book “Cantabile,” and his Prélude Elégiaque, from the oratorio Le Cortège de Lucie, based on the libretto by the Franco-Belgian poet and philosopher Bernard Van Brugghe.

The second half of the concert will hear Bart play famous Opera Arias with mezzo-soprano Christine Labadens. A DVD recording will be made of the concert with a royal dinner party to follow.

Bart was no stranger to French nobility when he began his collaboration with Prince Henrik. His home base in France is on the estate of the Marquis and Marquise Robert and Jeanne-Marie de Palaminy. Bart had leased the historic estate manager’s cottage, on the grounds of the Château de Palaminy . In cooperation with the Palaminys, he has restored it to be the ideal composer’s environment.

Chateau de Palaminy

Chateau de Palaminy

 Interior alterations allowed for the entry of Bart’s huge Steinway D concert grand piano and a staging area to accommodate forty guests for intimate concerts in the composer’s home. Bart also gave private concerts for the Palaminys and their guests in the old wine storehouse of the château, a late 18th century addition whose walls were built out of the distinctive Toulouse brick and stones from the adjacent Garonne River, a vast space with a wood beam ceiling seating up to 400 people. Other noble acquaintances then wanted Bart to perform at their château, so Bart was kept busy, making new friends and supporters at these intimate cultural gatherings.

Edmund Barton Bullock Photo by Maurice Petit

                                                         Edmund Barton Bullock
                                                          Photo by Maurice Petit

In addition to concert appearances in Europe and the United States and recording sessions of his major works, also on Bart’s agenda are my oratorio, The Awakening of Humanity, and his French oratorio, Le Cortége de Lucie.

After the anticipated triumph of the Prince Henrik art song cycle concert in August, there is hope that it will be repeated in Denmark and the United States.

My own collaboration with Bart will have the premiere performance of its first two movements on January 11th in Toulouse by the Ensemble Vocal Unité under the artistic direction of Christian Nadalet. Our hope is that the recording of this concert will stimulate interest leading to a commission for Bart to complete the entire six-movement work. We would like to see The Awakening of Humanity premiered in France with a symphony orchestra, followed by a United States premiere in Washington, DC or in our native North Carolina.

"Bart" Bullock and Monty Joynes in their oratorio collaboration

“Bart” Bullock and Monty Joynes in their
oratorio collaboration

I can also imagine a day when a concert program might include the Prince’s art song cycle as well as my oratorio. Perhaps as the attending collaborators, we would be introduced—Henrik as a Royal Prince and me with a kind of title awarded at birth. I am a Saint. St. Leger Moncure Joynes. I hope that my joke makes the Prince smile. We do, after all, share a composer.

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Confessions of a Channeler: Am I In The Twilight Zone?

ConfessionsCover1 Publisher, author, and film producer Bob Friedman has accused me of being a mystic.  After years of resisting, I had to determine if he was right.

Bob has known me as a friend since we were in George Garrett’s University of Virginia writing class in 1962. Bob and I traveled Europe together after earning our degrees, we met our first wives together, and even worked for each other in various publishing ventures. Bob has known me best for over 50 years. Still, he wondered how I could write what I wrote in The Booker Series novels.

First book in the Booker Series

First book in the Booker Series

Finally, in 2011, he confronted me with the fact that I must be channeling the mystical content in my books. And Bob knows something about channeling! He discovered and published the first Conversations With God books by Neale Donald Walsch as well as many other non-fiction books in the Mind, Body, Spirit genre over a long career.

Confessions of a Channeler is the result of Bob Friedman’s request that I write an autobiographical book about how and under what circumstances I managed to write the wisdom content of The Booker Series. My wife Pat had already collected these wisdom pieces as aphorisms that she printed on decorative sets of cards and gave to close friends and family members.

Photo by Pat Joynes

Photo by Pat Joynes

Pat has also taken numerous photographs that in both mood and subject were perfect illustrations for such a book. In fact, her photo of our mailbox became a striking metaphor for the book’s cover. A heavenly light streams out of the trees and illuminates the wooded road as the mailbox stands sentinel to receive the messages.

The Woods

As you read Confessions of a Channeler, I hope that you will find a method for your own personal revelations.  I hope that you will also discover, as I did, that the Great Mystery has always been indwelling in you.

Photo by Pat Joynes

Photo by Pat Joynes

Pat and I wish to express our deepest appreciation to Joe Nusbaum, our publisher at Eltanin Publishing in Vermont, for his creative sensitivity in bringing Confessions to print.  Here are links to purchase the paper back book and the  e-book.

Confessions covers

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N. Scott Momaday: Native American Arts Champion

House made of dawn cover no picScott Momaday is credited with leading the way for a breakthrough in Native American literature when his novel, House Made of Dawn, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969. Scott, who had a high level academic career, was also a poet and playwright. His participation in the second year of the Playwrights’ Project was then considered a literary coup. I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet Scott over a period of a week where I sat as an observer to the dramatists’ creative process. Little could I have anticipated that I would later hold Scott Momaday as a three-hour conversational captive in my car.

Edith Crutcher with Monty at the Playwrights Project

Edith Crutcher with Monty at the Playwrights Project

I was introduced to N. Scott Momaday in 2000 by Edith Colvard Crutcher, a distinguished North Carolina Cherokee elder who had a significant role in preserving American Indian culture as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Edie had read and admired the first three novels in my Booker Series that deal with the metaphysics and social issues of contemporary American Indians, and she was very generous in inviting me to participate in the first sessions of The Playwrights’ Project.

Healing SpringAlthough I was the 1986 founding president of the Blowing Rock Stage Company, an award-winning Equity professional summer stock theatre that produced five shows each season, I had no playwright credits to become a writer or actor at the Playwrights’ Project. That first session, March 14-21, 1999, my wife Pat and I drove from Boone, NC beyond West Jefferson to the remote rural location of Healing Spring where the invited writers and actors worked in a country school being restored as a theatrical center. Pat and I brought small gifts and acted as an unofficial welcoming committee.  We also sat in on the sessions where individual playwrights presented the most recent rewrites of a scene, and actors performed dramatic table readings.  Then Artistic Director, M.Z. Ribalow, a playwright himself, led a critical discussion of what had just been presented.

I admit to a persistent flaw in my manners. Despite my lack of rank or authority, I cannot keep quiet when I feel that an obvious point needs to be articulated. I have thus offered my unsolicited opinions to First Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains, and even a Major when I was in the Army, and to Generals, Admirals, and Ambassadors when I was a lowly staff civilian. My faux pas at the Playwrights’ Project was to offer comments from my sidewall guest observation chair to the playwrights and actors at the conference table.  Meir Ribalow justifiably did not appreciate my remarks made from the peanut gallery, and thereafter I perceived his scowl whenever I approached. Nevertheless, I admired his talent and dedication to the creative process that lasted until his untimely death.

Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts

Momaday receiving the National Medal of Arts

In the first ten years of operations, the Playwrights’ Project, also recognized as New River Dramatists, fostered 345 plays under the direction of Founder and Executive Director Mark Woods. In 2007, Scott Momaday received our country’s highest cultural award, the National Medal of Arts. Other playwrights in the program won a National Book Award and the August Wilson Prize. Perhaps half of the plays workshopped at Healing Spring saw production in New York City and elsewhere.

When Pat and I met Scott Momaday, he was a giant of a man at age 66.

Monty and Pat with Scott Momaday at the Playwrights Project in Ashe County

Monty and Pat with Scott Momaday at the Playwrights Project in Ashe County

Wearing a high crowned western hat, he seemed a head taller that I was. In the sessions where actors dramatized scenes from his play-in-progress, he responded to all suggestions generously, and he was obviously one of the group’s favorite participants. At breaks and at the mid-day meal catered by country ladies from their nearby home kitchens, Scott was always available for conversations. He also cooperated with anyone, like us, who wanted to be photographed with him.

In a two-week playwrights workshop Pat and I would commute and maybe spend three to four days on site. We were fortunately there when Scott needed transportation to the Charlotte airport.  Although it would be at least a three-hour detour for us, we readily volunteered. Scott carried a two-inch stack of airline tickets that he shuffled to find the flight to his next appearance on a long itinerary. He noted that he did not enjoy the travel, and that he would be happy when he could return to his mountain home in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

Momaday pulitzer novelist banner

Pat drove our Dodge Caravan while Scott sat in the rear seat catercorner from me in the front passenger seat. As a former journalist, I had to avoid the temptation to interview the Pulitzer Prize author on Native American subjects that interested me, but then, too, I was not going to stay silent and miss the opportunity to engage him. I was then working on a long novel, Eagle Feathers In Glass, that was inspired by Lloyd Kiva New, a mutual friend of ours. Maybe that conversation about the Institute of American Indian Arts that had been founded by Lloyd occupied an hour or so. At some point on the journey to the airport, Scott and I found our most common ground: our passion for cooking soups. He described his Southwestern ingredient soups, and I told him my recipe and methods for creating an authentic Louisiana Cajun Chicken-Sausage-Okra Gumbo.  Scott then suggested that the most productive use of our next-time meeting would be in a kitchen for a soup and gumbo cook-off. Perhaps he hoped that I might talk less while preparing a gumbo.

When we left Scott at the airport terminal, Pat admonished me for talking non-stop. “Maybe Scott would have enjoyed a nap,” she chided. “I already apologized to him,” I said. “He can nap on the flight.” “Mark Woods will probably never ask us to take anybody to the airport again,” Pat added.

“I can’t help myself,” I confessed. “I would have done the same on a train ride with Mark Twain. If you don’t engage great men and women when you get the opportunity, you will regret that silence for the rest of your life.”

Since I was only 59 years old when I met Scott Momaday, I trust that he will forgive my behavior as a youthful excess of enthusiasm.

indians and mountains

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